We Speak Their Names | HBCU Alumni Killed in Charleston Massacre

On the night of Wednesday, June 17, 2015, a now-confessed white gunman, Dylann Roof, sat in the bible study of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina for almost an hour before opening fire on attendees, killing nine people. CNN reported that Roof’s father recently bought the younger Roff a .45-caliber gun for his 21st birthday. Citing survivors of the shooting, Sylvia Johnson, the cousin of the church’s pastor the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, who was killed in the attack, said the gunman told them: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten furnished the names of the victims, whose ages range from 26-87. They were all killed by gunshots, she said. The victims are: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54; Suzy Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.

Six among them have been confirmed as Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alumni, including the church’s pastor the Honorable Reverend Pinckney.


The Honorable Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, Allen University ’95
Having answered the call to preach at age 13, and received his first appointment to pastor at age 18, the Reverend Pinckney was a 1995 magna cum laude graduate of Allen University. There, according to his biography on the church’s website, Pinckney was a student stand-out: serving as freshman class, student body, and senior class president. Ebony Magazine recognized him as one the “Top College Students in America” and during his junior year, he received a Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Summer Research Fellowship. He was awarded a graduate fellowship to the University of South Carolina where he earned a master’s degree in public administration, and he completed a Master’s of Divinity at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. One of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature, Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996, at age twenty-three. Four years later, he was elected to the State Senate at age twenty-seven. He is survived by his wife Jennifer, and their two daughters, Eliana and Malana. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.


Sharonda Coleman-Singleton,  South Carolina State University ’91
A mother of three, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a speech pathologist who coached girls track and field at Goose Creek High School. “It’s 95 degrees out there, and she’s with those girls every day,” Goose Creek’s principal Jimmy Huskey said in an interview with The Post and Courier. “She taught those young ladies how to be better young ladies, and that can never be replaced.” Coleman-Singleton ran track herself at South Carolina State University, where she helped her team to a conference championship and earned a degree in speech pathology and audiology in 1991. She worked for the Berkeley County School District since 2007. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Cynthia Hurd

Cynthia Graham Hurd, Clark Atlanta University
Librarian Cynthia Graham Hurd grew up attending Mother Emanuel, where her mother sang in the church choir. A manager with the Charleston County public library system, her 31 years of service to the Charleston County Public Library included service as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch from 1990-2011, before serving as manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library. Hurd graduated from Clark Atlanta University, and was awarded a master’s in library science from the University of South Carolina. Graham is survived by her husband, Steve, with whom she lived on the city’s east side in the brick bungalow where she grew up. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Tywanza SandersTywanza Sanders, Allen University ’14
Described as an outgoing student with an “inkling toward entrepreneurship,”  Tywanza Sanders graduated from Allen University with a degree in business administration in 2014. “He was a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education,” the university’s President June Cole said, as quoted by The State, a newspaper in the state capital, Columbia. “He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues. Mr. Sanders was participating in the Bible Study session at Mother Emanuel church at the time of the shooting.” His Facebook cover photo reads: “Your dreams are calling you.”

daniel simmonsThe Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Allen University
The Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr. was the only victim who initially survived the attack, but he died in surgery at the nearby Medical University of South Carolina. A former pastor at Friendship AME Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Simmons was a member of Mother Emanuel’s ministerial staff and a regular Wednesday night Bible study class attendee. Having attended Allen University, he was initiated into the Alpha Omicron chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated in 1966.

Myra Thompson SingletonMyra Singleton Thompson, Livingstone College + Benedict College ’79
The wife of the 1974 Benedict College alumnus Reverend Anthony Thompson, Vicar of Holy Trinity REC (ACNA) Church in Charleston, Myra Singleton Thompson entered Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina during the fall of 1974. ransferred to Benedict College following her sophomore year; from which she was awarded a bachelor’s degree in English in 1979. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Indeed, we, who believe in freedom, are called; we, HBCU family, cannot rest. We speak their names: Cynthia Graham Hurd, Suzy Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.


  1. My condolences to each family member touched by this horrific tragedy! I will continually pray for your peace & comfort as you struggle with losing a dear loved one.

  2. My heart is deeply saddened over the terrible, horrific massacre that happened in MY home state (SC). Have family members who had/ have ties to the aforementioned colleges & universities. MESSAGE TO ALL: “KEEP YOUR SOUL ON GUARD”, because it’s not over until GOD says it’s over. Condolences to victims’ family; peace & joy in knowing that they didn’t die in vain.